CSOs demand more money for medicines

February 26, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 – Civil Society Organisations on Thursday demanded that the government puts in place a specific budget for essential medicines.

They said it was unacceptable for the country to constantly run short of these medicines due to over reliance on donor funding.

Treat the People Coordinator James Kamau said that the availability of essential medicines like those of non-communicable diseases was below 75 percent.

“If Kenya wanted to put 15 percent of its budget to health it can very easily do it. KEMSA is allocated Sh900 million annually to buy drugs, which translates for our population Sh24 per person per year; just enough for two panadols,” he said.

Currently, the health budget in Kenya is about six percent of the GDP.

“When you go to the public facilities and you are prescribed for particular drugs, you find them writing OS, meaning Out of Stock. That is such a common experience that even Wanjiku (layman) knows the meaning of OS,” Mr Kamau stated.

Consumer Information Network Chief Executive Officer, Samuel Ochieng, said unless the country set its own budget it will be headed for a crisis.

“Its really critical and unless something is done, unless we are able to absorb the cost of sustaining our lives those other people who are doing it are not going to do it for long,” said Mr Ochieng.

“With the economic crisis, the donor countries also have their own priorities; so in simple words it is critical and should anything happen now and the budgets are cut especially from the donors or global fund, we are headed for a crisis.”

Mr Ochieng said Kenya had 80 percent dependency on donor funding, which was unacceptable in a sovereign state.

He said it was a shame that a country like Malawi, which has a lower per capita income compared to Kenya, is able to provide these essential medicines to its populace free of charge.

“You have heard what has happened before when there was a problem between the government and Global Fund in terms of accountability, you heard all the shouts and the crisis which was looming in this country,” added Mr Ochieng.

The essential drugs, they said, are those that treat diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and also antenatal care and paediatric medicines.

On Wednesday, the Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaaz Shariff said the country had a BCG and Polio vaccination stock out since mid last year due to an expiry of an agreement it had with UNICEF. The agreement took six months to renew, within which there were no available drugs for vaccination against polio, for children below five years of age.

The country is also faced with an anti-malarial stock out after Medical Services Minister Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o said there was only enough to last six months.


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